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New car sales collapse to 1946 levels – but Tesla Model 3 is UK number 1

Line-up of new Lexus carsUK new car registrations plunged more than 97 percent in April 2020 to levels not seen since early 1946, official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal. 

The UK lockdown announced on 23 March saw car dealers close their showrooms, effectively pausing registrations and deliveries for all but a handful. 

Companies accounted for 71.5 percent of the registrations, a much greater proportion than normal. This indicates most deliveries were bulk fleet car orders, arranged well before lockdown. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the April 2020 figures were “hardly surprising”. 

Tesla Model 3

Incredibly, the Tesla Model 3 electric car was the best-selling vehicle in April, well ahead of another all-electric car: the Jaguar I-Pace

In January, Jaguar signed a deal to supply 700 I-Paces to the NHS

Zero-emissions battery electric cars easily took their highest market share ever, accounting for almost 1 in 3 new cars sold. 

Vauxhall was third with the all-new Corsa, the AUTOBEST Best Buy Car of Europe 2020. Vauxhall also offers an all-electric version, the Corsa-e

New rules were introduced in April 2020 meaning EV company car drivers pay ZERO Benefit-in-Kind tax

In another first, there were two passenger vans in the top 10 best-sellers list as well, the Ford Tourneo Custom and Peugeot Rifter. 

Just 4,321 cars

April new car registrations 2004 to 2020

A mere 4,321 new cars were registered in April 2020, a decline of 97.3 percent in a year.

In April 2019, more than 161,000 new cars were registered, illustrating the scale of the fall. 

That itself was the second-worst April for new car sales since 2012, due to a 10 percent decline in private buyer demand. 

The SMMT has responded by downgrading its full-year estimate for new car sales to 1.68 million vehicles. This would be a level last seen in 1992. 

Last year, 2.31 million new cars were sold

New car registrations had already fallen 44 percent in March. European registrations were down 55 percent

In February 1946, just months after the end of World War II, just 4,044 new cars were registered. 

Top 10 best-selling vehicles: April 2020

1: Tesla Model 3 (658 cars)

2: Jaguar I-Pace (367 cars)

3: Vauxhall Corsa (264 cars)

4: Vauxhall Crossland X (143 cars)

5: Ford Tourneo Custom (108 passenger vans)

6: Peugeot Rifter (94 passenger vans)

7: Seat Leon (80 cars)

8: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (72 cars)

9: Nissan Leaf (72 cars)

10: Peugeot 308 (67 cars)

‘Worst in living memory’

Mr Hawes from the SMMT said the market performance was the worst in living memory. 

“These figures… make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.

“A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and as Britain starts to plan for recovery, we need car retail to be in the vanguard.”

April 2020 car sales: industry response

Auto Trader commercial director Ian Plummer said some brands had been able to sell remotely, but a lack of infrastructure meant only a few – most prominently, Tesla – were able to capitalise. 

The new car marketplace is still receiving 1 million visits a day, though. Mr Plummer says data shows only 2 percent of consumers say they will no longer be buying a new vehicle. 

“25 percent said they wanted to buy as soon as they could, and 57 percent said they’d still buy in 2020.”

Data suggests the market “has been paused, rather than stopped, and [is] ready to return to health quickly once restrictions have been lifted”. 

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Renault car dealer

New car sales plunge 44% in March

Renault car dealer

The coronavirus crisis has caused a severe shock to new car sales, with March registrations plummeting 44.4 percent, new figures reveal. 

A staggering 203,000 fewer cars were sold last month. 

March is usually the strongest month of the year for new car registrations. 

ALSO READ: New car sales down for THIRD year running in 2019

The sudden fall is even more severe than that seen during the 2008 financial crisis. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders say it was the worst March since the late 1990s. 

The SMMT has also downgraded its full-year figure by a whopping 23 percent, to 1.73 million new cars sold.

The record figure for UK new car sales was achieved just four years ago, with 2.67 million new cars sold.

‘Could have been worse’

“With the country locked down in crisis mode for a large part of March, this decline will come as no surprise,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. 

“Despite this being the lowest March since we moved to the bi-annual plate change system, it could have been worse had the significant advanced orders placed for the new 20 plate not been delivered in the early part of the month.

“We should not, however, draw long term conclusions from these figures other than this being a stark realisation of what happens when economies grind to a halt.”

Mr Hawes said it is uncertain how long the new car market will remain stalled. 

In more positive news, battery electric vehicles took a 4.6 percent market share, with 11,694 EVs taking to the roads. 

In 2019, electric car market share was less than 1 percent. 

Diesel, however, continued to plunge, taking a paltry 17.6 percent share of the overall market.

This is down even from the much-reduced 25 percent share just one year ago. 

Newer ‘mild hybrid’ diesels (similar to our Kia Sportage long-term test vehicle) took a 3.5 percent share, while mild hybrid petrols took a 4.6 percent share of March 2020 registrations. 

Best-selling cars: March 2020

1: Volkswagen Golf

2: Ford Fiesta

3: Mini

4: Ford Focus

5: Nissan Qashqai

6: Vauxhall Corsa

7: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

8: Kia Sportage

9: Other (Tesla Model 3)

10: Range Rover Evoque

Grey Ford Fiesta Vignale

Grey named Britain’s favourite new car colour – again

Grey Ford Fiesta Vignale

For the second year running, grey paint was chosen by more new car buyers than any other in 2019 as our seemingly sombre mood for car colour choice continued. 

Black and white followed grey, and the three colours accounted for over 6 in 10 new car sales.

You have to go back to 2010 to see a primary colour make the top three new car colour rankings.

Grey actually boosted its market share thanks to a 5.3 percent increase in sales – a whopping 521,273 new cars were ordered in grey last year, or 1 in 5 of all car sales.

Ford Fiesta Vignale

Our preference for grey comes at the expense of silver, reveal the figures from the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT). Silver cars took their lowest total sales for 20 years, with just over 201k sales.

It’s quite the shift away from silver, a colour that’s been in the top three 16 years out of the past 20.

Scotland, however, continued its preference for silver, with the market north of the border placing the colour top overall.

Black and white choice

Looking at individual car categories, buyers made some interesting choices. For supermini drivers, the most popular new car colour was white.

In contrast, for executive and luxury car buyers, the top colour was black.

Diesel and petrol car buyers? They preferred grey – but for electric car customers, their top choice was again white.

The least popular colours (or, if you prefer, the most exclusive) were maroon, cream and pink. Even collectively, they comprised less than 1 percent of all new car sales.

UK top five car colours 1999-2019

As for blue cars, a colour that was top of the charts 20 years ago, it’s down in fourth place now, taking 16.7 percent of new car sales.

Red dropped again, with a market share of less than 10 percent, and green continues to be well out of favour too, with just 16,718 new cars ordered in the colour.

It seems we want our new cars to be green overall – just not actually painted green.

Ford Transit Custom Sportvan

Ford Transit Custom VAN is Britain’s third best-selling vehicle

Ford Transit Custom Sportvan

The Ford Transit Custom didn’t just outsell every other van in Britain, but also proved more popular than all but just two brand new cars in 2019.

With registrations of 57,494, the Transit Custom was beaten only by the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf – trailing the VW by just 1,500 units.

The Transit beat another Ford, the Focus, into third place in the UK sales chart.

Ford’s perennially popular Transit has now been Britain’s best-selling commercial vehicle for 54 years running.

The Ford brand has topped the passenger car table for 43 consecutive years, too.

“We thank our customers for again showing that they have confidence in Ford and our dealer network across the UK,” said Ford of Britain MD, Andy Barratt.

“We will work hard to continue to build on their trust as we launch an unprecedented range of 14 electrified vehicles in the UK by the end of 2020.”

Ford Ecosport

Other impressive stats from Ford include the ageing EcoSport small SUV (pictured above) achieving its best year yet in the UK, with 25,451 new cars sold.

This bodes well for the imminent launch of the much more stylish Ford Puma small SUV.

The brand also said that high-series, more expensive Fords – such as Titanium, Vignale, ST-Line and ST – accounted for 81 percent of new car sales in 2019.

It may have launched a new £15,995 Fiesta Trend variant in 2019, but it seems buyers are more eager to spend more on a posher version…

UK top five best sellers in 2019

1 Ford Fiesta: 77,833

2 Volkswagen Golf: 58,994

3 Ford Transit: 57,494

4 Ford Focus: 56,619

5 Vauxhall Corsa: 54,239

Post-Brexit car market to be ‘unleashed’ in 2020

Car market to be 'unleashed' in 2020

2020 could be the year the UK car market gets back on track, according to new research. An unlocked parliament and an end to Brexit uncertainty is said to be inspiring more confidence in car buyers. Sales have been stalling over the past three years since the referendum. Indeed, car sales fell for the third year in a row in 2019.

The research by BuyaCar has polled more than 3,000 people on their car-buying intentions, past present and future. One in six (15 percent) said that an end to the gridlocked parliament of the last few months and years means they’ll be more likely to take the plunge in 2020 and beyond.

For those deeper into the process of finding a car, who are looking at specific models, it’s up to 24 percent (almost one in four). In general, the closer car buyers are to taking the plunge, the more confident the landslide election result has made them about going ahead.

Car market to be 'unleashed' in 2020

Compare that to March last year. Car shoppers told BuyaCar that Brexit uncertainty was at the top of the list of reasons why they have delayed buying a car for two years or more. On the face of it, the car market forecast is brighter for 2020, though Brexit still looms incomplete.

BuyaCar editor Christopher Lloyd says that the research is backed up by search traffic on its platform. An increase in traffic in between Christmas and New Year this year plays a drop-off in 2018.

Car market to be 'unleashed' in 2020

“As we have been reminded almost daily in the news over the past couple of years, Brexit uncertainty has been deeply damaging to consumer and business confidence,” Lloyd said.

“So this research suggests that a lot of pent-up demand is about to be unleashed now that the question has been decisively settled. The car industry has had a torrid time since the 2016 referendum and although our own sales of used cars have continued to grow, the new car market in particular has been consistently falling. From this research it seems clear that, wherever you stand on Brexit, an end to uncertainty may be just the thing to unleash buyers back into the market.“

Ford Fiesta is Britain's best-selling car of 2019

Ford Fiesta named Britain’s best-selling car of 2019

Ford Fiesta is Britain's best-selling car of 2019

The Ford Fiesta has once again been named Britain’s favourite new car of the year after topping the sales charts with ease in 2019.

Almost 78,000 new Ford Fiestas were registered last year, easily clearing the 58,994 total of the car in second place, the Volkswagen Golf.

But it was a surprisingly tight battle for the runners-up spot, with the Ford Focus coming close in third with 56,619 registrations.

The Vauxhall Corsa finished the year on 54k units, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was on 53k, and the Nissan Qashqai ended on 52k new cars sold.

Ford’s long-running Kuga still performed well in seventh place, just a few hundred units ahead of the Mini, with the Volkswagen Polo and Kia Sportage rounding out the top 10.

The arrival of several significant all-new models in 2020 – the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Kuga – is expected to shake things up this year.

Although the UK new car market declined overall in 2020, Britain remains Europe’s second-largest, behind Germany. It is also, says the Society of Motoring Manufactures and Traders (SMMT), one of the most diverse, with 350 different models on offer.

Almost 90 new models are set to arrive in 2020, including 23 zero-emission cars and 11 plug-in hybrids, says the SMMT.

Whether any of them can budge the Ford Fiesta from the number one spot – success that’s made it Britain’s best-selling car of all time – remains to be seen…

Britain’s best-selling cars in 2019

1 Ford Fiesta: 77,833

2 Volkswagen Golf: 58,994

3 Ford Focus: 56,619

4 Vauxhall Corsa: 54,239

5 Mercedes-Benz A-Class: 53,724

6 Nissan Qashqai: 52,532

7 Ford Kuga: 41,671

8 Mini: 41,188

9 Volkswagen Polo: 37,453

10 Kia Sportage: 34,502

Renault UK new car dealer

New car sales down for THIRD year running 2019

Renault UK new car dealer

New car registrations fell for the third year running in 2019, with the market declining 2.4 percent to a seven-year low.

Official figures show 2.3 million cars were sold last year, compared to 2016’s all-time high of 2.69 million.

However, adds the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the 2019 total is still ahead of the UK’s 10-year average.

Every new car sector apart from two experienced sales declines. The exceptions were the dual purpose (SUV) sector, up 12 percent, and the specialist sports sector, up an eye-catching 19.2 percent.

The latter is due to the long-awaited arrival of the Tesla Model 3, which the SMMT classifies as a specialist sports vehicle.

The best-selling car types in the UK were superminis and family cars, which took 57 percent of new car sales – but both were down, by 6 percent and 4 percent respectively. 

Electric up, diesel down

Alternative fuel vehicles – that’s electric cars and hybrids – grew 20.6 percent, to take an overall market share of 7.4 percent. Hybrids made up 4.6 percent of that total, with electric cars on 1.6 percent.

Battery electric vehicles, adds the SMMT, overtook plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) for the first time. It blames this on the government’s controversial decision to pull PHEVs from the Plug-in Car Grant.

The launch of at least 23 new electric cars in 2020 is likely to continue the growth of EVs. 

And diesel? Sales fell a whopping 21.8 percent, giving it a 25 percent market share. This is the lowest diesel share since 2003, and means diesel car sales have basically halved since the peak three years ago.

Diesel new car sales have now fallen for 33 months running.

The decline of diesel is partly behind the worrying rise in new car CO2. It too has risen for the third consecutive year, to an average of 127.9 g/km.

SMMT chief executive said the introduction of the new WLTP test was the main reason for this (cars had to be retested to the tougher standards), although buyers shifting from hatchbacks to SUVs was also pushing up new car CO2.

By the end of 2020, EU legislation requires every car brand’s average new car CO2 to be no greater than 95 g/km, which is why the increase in new car emissions is so alarming to industry-watchers.

As for 2020, the SMMT expects new car registrations to fall again, due to an ongoing lack of consumer confidence.

The trade organisation expects 2.2 million cars to be sold this year, a fall of 1.6 percent on 2019’s figures. However, Hawes did admit this figure was modified upwards from an earlier prediction of 2.2 million, following December’s General Election.

If consumer confidence shows further positive improvement in 2020, the prediction could be modified once again. Whether or not Britain posts its fourth straight year of falling new car sales depends on it…

Mercedes-Benz CLA

All show: North East car buyers are the flashiest in the UK

Mercedes-Benz CLA

Who in Britain is the proudest when it comes to cars? Londoners? Nope. Essex boys (and girls)? Not even close. The flashiest of us car owners in the UK, in fact, reside in the North East, according to a 2,000-person survey commissioned by GAP insurance provider, InsureTheGap.com.

It figures that a Guaranteed Asset Protection provider would endeavour to uncover where in the UK swaps out cars for new models the most frequently. And the survey says a lot about proud North-Eastern car culture and what their transport means to them.

The headline figure is that 41 percent of North-Eastern car buyers get a new car every two to four years, compared to the national average of 28 percent. One in four buyers choose new instead of used, because of the ‘new car’ look and feel, never mind the added cost.

Compare that to a mere 19 percent of people from across the UK that have the same sentiments. That could explain why car owners in the North East are also the least likely of any in the UK to own their car outright, and are in the top three regions for people who say their car payment is in their top three monthly expenses.

As a nation, it seems we’re rather keen on cars as a status symbol. While 27 percent of people in the UK think a car should say something about who you are and what you’ve done with yourself, one in three (36 percent) of North-Eastern folks take the same view.

Range-Rover Evoque

Only 14 percent of North-Eastern drivers would accept a hand-me-down car, compared to a national average of 21 percent. They’re also the least likely to accept that old “as long as it gets me from A to B” sentiment – 32 percent versus 42 percent across the UK.

When asked if picking a car is an affair of the heart rather than a common sense purchase, 24 percent said yes, versus the national average of 16 percent.

Given cars are more objects of desire to the North-Eastern folk, it comes as no surprise that they are the least attracted to more environmentally friendly cars. 27 percent indicated a willingness to drive an electric car, looking titchy compared to the national average of 37 percent and the whopping 49 percent London figure.

“Throughout our survey, the North East consistently came out as the region where people take most pride in their cars with very few people prepared to compromise when it comes to buying a new car, or “making-do” with a hand-me-down“, said Ben Wooltorton, Chief Operating Office at InsuretheGap.com

“Interestingly, it was also the region that was least likely to be prepared to move away from traditional petrol and diesel cars. The region appears to be every car salesperson’s dream.”

Read more:

Ford Mustang

Official: Ford Mustang is Britain’s favourite performance car

Ford MustangThe Ford Mustang is the most popular high-performance sports coupe on sale in Britain, with year-to-date sales 60% ahead of its nearest rival.

Classed as sports cars boasting 250hp or more, the high performance car sales chart sees Ford beating the Jaguar F-Type, BMW 6 Series and Porsche 911.

Surprisingly, the perennially-popular Audi TT is down in sixth place, behind the Porsche Cayman. That’s probably because most TT sales have less than 250hp: not a problem for the Mustang, which produces 314hp even in ‘standard’ 2.3-litre Ecoboost guise.

The 5.0-litre V8 GT produces 418hp.

70% of all UK Mustang sales are of the V8 engine: understandable, given a list price from £34,995 (the Jaguar F-Type starts at £51,775). The Ecoboost is priced from £30,995, or the same price as a Ford Focus RS.

Since introducing the Mustang to Europe in autumn 2015, Ford has sold 19,500 Mustangs across the region: 4,000 of them are in Britain alone.

Top 10 high performance cars: Jan – June 2016

1: Ford Mustang (2,317 sales)

2: Jaguar F-Type (1,446 sales)

3: BMW 6 Series (1,367 sales)

4: Porsche 911 (1,315 sales)

5: Porsche Cayman (787 sales)

6: Audi TT (778 sales)

7: Porsche Boxster (526 sales)

8: Mercedes-Benz SL (489 sales)

9: Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman (482 sales)

10: BMW i8 (382 sales)

Toyota Corolla L

Toyota hits back at Ford: Corolla is world’s best selling car

Toyota Corolla LFord may claim the Focus was the best selling car name in 2013, but the Toyota Corolla still remains the world’s best selling car, says the firm.  Read more